POSTED ON Monday, 02.06.2012 / 6:12 PM
|Joey MacDonald gets his first start with the Red Wings in 11 months when he faces the Phoenix Coyotes tonight at Jobing.com Arena. (Photo by Getty Images)|
Fortunately for Joey MacDonald his wait was significantly less as he entered last Saturday’s game at the start of the second period at Edmonton. He' get his first NHL start of the season Monday when the Red Wings wrap-up a four-game road trip with a game against the Phoenix Coyotes.
“Whenever you come up and get a chance to play in a couple of games right away, that's what you want,” said MacDonald, who relieved Ty Conklin after the Oilers raced to a 3-1 lead. “You don't want to be sitting around and watching. You want to get right in there.
“I think last game was a great example, get right in there and give the team a chance to win. Same thing tonight, just hold the fort. You know these guys are going to come out hard.”
Tonight’s game at Phoenix will mark MacDonald’s first NHL start since last March, when the Wings dropped a 10-3 decision to the St. Louis Blues.
It's also the first time that the soon-to-be 32-year-old goaltender (his birthday is Tuesday) has ever faced the Coyotes.
Last July, MacDonald signed a two-year contract to remain in the organization with the hopes of getting a shot to return to the NHL.
“That's why I signed here, it's an opportunity to take advantage of it,” he said. “I didn't sign to be down in Grand Rapids. You got to keep working hard wherever you are and when you get the opportunity take advantage of it.”
With All-Star goalie Jimmy Howard possibly on the shelf for two weeks with a fractured right index finger, MacDonald wants to show that he can be a suitable alternative in the meantime.
The journeyman goaltender is in his second stint with the Wings. Last season he appeared in 15 games and posted a 5-5-3 record with a 2.58 goals-against average.
On Saturday, he helped keep the Wings in the game against the speedy Oilers, who cruised to a 3-1 lead. The Wings managed to storm back to take a 4-3 lead, before the Oilers tied the game, forcing overtime and eventually a shoot-out where the home team won.
“When you get an opportunity to play, even if it's down in Grand Rapids, you get in a groove,” MacDonald said. “Playing eight or 10 in a row down there, you can come here and jump into a game right away, makes it a little easier.”
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POSTED ON Saturday, 02.04.2012 / 4:19 PM
EDMONTON, Alberta – Despite having a broken right index finger, goalie Jimmy Howard was on the ice with his Red Wings’ teammates at Rexall Place Saturday morning.
Howard, who suffered the fracture early in the third period of Thursday’s win at Vancouver, said that he will likely miss more than two games – the original prediction – but less than two weeks.
“I really haven’t been told, but the doctors in Vancouver told me four to six (weeks) before it’s healed,” Howard said. “When they told me four to six, I thought, ‘There’s no chance that I’m, you, know, going to be out four to six. Just two weeks sounded good.”
In the meantime, Ty Conklin will be the Wings' starter beginning Saturday against the Oilers, a team that he has a 4-2-0 overall record with a 3.02 goal-against average and a .900 saver percentage. It's been nearly three years since Conklin last played at Rexall when he led the Wings to a 3-2 victory on March 24, 2009.
If Howard is out for two weeks that means he could likely miss seven games with an eye on returning for the home game against the San Jose Sharks on Feb. 19.
More will be known of Howard’s return once he sees team doctors Tuesday when the Wings return to Detroit following their current four-game road trip out west, which concludes Monday in Phoenix.
Wings equipment manager Paul Boyer fabricated a three-inch notch from the top of the stick’s paddle in hopes to make it easier to grip for Howard, who said he’s played before with broken digits.
“As you can see with my stick (there’s) a piece notched out so I’m able to hold on with (middle and ring) fingers,” Howard said. “I didn’t even take any shots today, so I don’t know how it will feel with the vibrations of the shots.”
Howard said he wants to return as soon as he’s comfortable and pain-free.
“I think the only danger is that it’s not going to heal, I think that’s the only danger,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any danger of injuring myself any further.
“I’m guessing that it’s two weeks. It’s really optimistic that it’s just two games. “Hopefully I can be back as soon as possible.”
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POSTED ON Saturday, 02.04.2012 / 1:17 PM
|Jimmy Howard shows his broken right index finger to the media Friday morning at Rexall Place. (Photo by Bill Roose/Detroit Red Wings)|
“It woke me up around 7 a.m. and felt like it (finger) was going pop off,” Howard said.
Howard suffered the fracture early in the third period of Thursday’s 4-3 shoot-out win at Vancouver. He said it occurred when the Canucks’ Max Lapierre fired a low shot that got underneath Howard’s blocker.
“Lapierre spun and shot it, missed my blocker and caught me right on the finger,” he said. “It is broken and we’ll see here. Won’t play the rest of the road trip and we’ll go home and see our doctors there and get their opinion.”
Immediately following the win, Howard had an X-ray taken at Rogers Arena, which showed a “clean break,” he said. “I’ve played with broken fingers before, so I’ll have to fool around with my sticks and cut some notches out of them.”
Backup goalie Ty Conklin will get the start against the Oilers at Rexall Place tonight. Meanwhile, Joey MacDonald has been recalled from Grand Rapids and will be Conklin’s backup tonight.
Conklin has played in 10 games this season – all on the road – while posting a 3-5-0 record with a 3.02 goal-against average. This will be Conklin’s first start at Rexall in nearly three years, since leading the Wings to a 3-2 win on March 24, 2009.
“This is a good opportunity, he gets a chance and he’s ready to go, so let’s get at it,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We’ve got to play real well like we always try to do and if we get do that we’ll give Conks a chance to be good.”
POSTED ON Friday, 02.03.2012 / 8:53 PM
STRATHCONA, Alberta – Pavel Datsyuk’s teammates often marvel at the things that the Red Wings’ center does on ice. But Friday afternoon, the All-Star may have top himself.
The Wings used a day off in the middle of their four-game road trip, spending a fun afternoon playing broomball on an outdoor rink at the Strathcona Athletic Park, about 25-minutes south of Edmonton.
Played on a regulation ice hockey rink, players hit a ball – a little smaller than a soccer ball – around the ice with a stick called a “broom,” with wooden shaft and a rubber-molded triangular head similar in shape to that of a regular household broom. Player usually wear special rubberized shoes for traction, but Wings’ players and coaches used regular athletic shoes, which made for a few comedic moments as guys slipped their way through the games.
But not Datsyuk, who flawlessly crisscrossed the ice surface, often in a sprint while helping Team Emmerton claim the tourney championship.
“He’s amazing,” said Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom, as he watched the Russian star navigate the ice. “He must have something on the bottom of those shoes that grip the ice.”
Friday’s competition was the second such event that the Wings have done this season. In October, players and coaches took target practice at the Canton Police Department’s gun range.
The Wings gathered at Rexall Place Friday morning for a team meeting, then assigned four of the younger players – Jakub Kindl, Cory Emmerton, Jan Mursak and Justin Abdelkader – as captains, who “drafted” players for the four teams before making the bus trip to the outdoor facility.
However, unlike last weekend’s All-Star game, Datsyuk was not drafted first overall, and Lidstrom went in the third-round. Kindl used the first overall pick to select fellow former NHL first-rounder Niklas Kronwall.
The Wings were originally scheduled to practice at an outdoor rink in Edmonton Friday in advance of Saturday’s game against the Oilers at Rexall Place. But coach Mike Babcock made the decision to ditch practice for broomball.
“I thought, ‘What the heck,’ so I told Pete (Bill Peters) last night, ‘Let’s do broomball,’ ” Babcock said. “So Pete phoned his buddy and got it all organized.”
SEE MORE PHOTOS: Red Wings Broomball Tournament
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POSTED ON Thursday, 02.02.2012 / 2:32 PM
|Danny Cleary, who had a cyst rupture behind his knee Wednesday, will be back in the Red Wings' lineup Thursday vs. Vancouver. (Photo by Getty Images)|
Cleary has had a cyst behind his knee that has been an issue for the last two months, and on Wednesday it landed him in a Vancouver hospital after it ruptured, causing fluid to drain in his calf, he said.
“We were worried about a blood clot, that's why I went to the hospital,” Cleary said. “It's swollen, at some point I got to get it drained, but the time is not now.”
Cleary played in Tuesday night’s 3-1 victory at Calgary, even assisting on Drew Miller’s third-period goal. But by Wednesday morning, the pain had gotten so bad that he went to the hospital.
Cleary, along with Pavel Datsyuk and Jimmy Howard were given the day off from practice on Wednesday. While coach Mike Babcock joked after Wednesday’s practice that he told Datsyuk and Howard to stay away from the rink and rest, Babcock said that Cleary, “Had something with his leg and gave him a day off. Nothing major at all. Just a little swelling.”
Cleary identified the cyst as a Baker’s cyst, which is swelling in the back of the knee joint usually brought on by arthritis or torn cartilage.
“It's got a lot of fluid in there, knee is sore, there's a lot of fluid,” he said.
Cleary, who has an assist in each of the last two games, has 10 goals and 13 assists in 51 games this season.
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 7:13 AM
|Mike Commodore did more than fight Calgary's Tim Jackman Tuesday night. The Red Wings' defenseman also had two hits and three blocked shots. (Photo by Getty Images)|
At the time, it was Commodore’s first game-action in well over a month and when Jackman didn’t oblige his request, the Red Wings’ defenseman wasn’t overly disappointed.
“It just didn’t happen,” Commodore said at the time. “And that’s fine because I had enough on my plate, to be honest, I probably would have lasted about four-seconds and been exhausted.”
It was a different story Tuesday night when Commodore again extended an invitation to Calgary’s tough guy in the Wings' 3-1 victory at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
This time the two squared off deep in the Wings’ zone with the fight lasting 13-times longer than Commodore thought a December bout with Jackman would have lasted. And though he received a small cut along the left eyebrow, Commodore provide the energy which is expected of him from the Wings’ coaching staff.
“It just happened to work out,” said Commodore, about his second fight as a Red Wing. “I wouldn’t say that the game was chippy or anything like that, but it sometimes works out like that where you run into each other. It was fine.”
At 6-foot-4, Commodore has been in the lineup in five of the last six games, and 12 of the last 18, giving the Wings a physical presence on the blue line in that sixth defensive spot, that coach Mike Babcock says is still up for grabs between Commodore and Jakub Kindl.
Besides the five-minute major Tuesday night, Commodore also had a game-high three blocked shots with two hits, including a big first-period hip check on Jackman, which probably helped pave the way for their later fight.
“Obviously anytime a guy steps up for his team you really appreciate that and that’s a positive thing,” Babcock said. “He worked hard, so we’re just looking for someone to grab that job and hold on to it, because you don’t want to be going in and out on a nightly basis.”
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 9:19 AM
First, the Red Wings’ goaltender had the privilege of being at his first All-Star extravaganza with his wife, Rachel, and three-month-old son, James Russell IV by his side for all of the hoopla.
Then from Thursday’s player draft to Saturday’s skills competition, where he was paired against Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick in the fastest-skating goalies category and beyond, Howard had a blast.
“I almost went down on that first turn and I said, ‘forget about this,’ ” said Howard, who wore a helmet-cam to capture the on-ice action. “I didn’t want to be the guy to take out those tires.”
And after winning a spirited game of rock, paper, scissors against Montreal goalie Carey Price to determine the Team Chara starter for Sunday’s marquee game, Howard enjoyed his one-period of work, even stopping the league’s leading goal-scorer on a penalty shot.
“It’s par for the course, I mean, why not?” said Howard of stopping Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos.
And yes, why not? After all, Howard has already faced three penalty shots this season – four if you include Sunday’s. And he even faced one in his NHL debut against the Kings’ Joe Corvo on Nov. 28, 2005.
“The first NHL game, the first All-Star game,” he said with a laugh. “That seems that they’ve always happened.”
Penalty shot aside, Howard said the whole process was pretty cool. And while he was glad for the opportunity, one particular skills event provide the Wings’ goalie with a glimpse inside his world.
“The hardest shot just because I got to see how crazy I am,” Howard said. “When you have some of these guys who look like they’re barely even firing it and it’s over 100 (miles per hour), I’m just shaking my head and wondering why do I even stand in front of these guys?”
POSTED ON Wednesday, 01.25.2012 / 2:38 PM
|For the second straight year, Jimmy Howard is the first NHL goalie to 30 wins, doing so Jan. 23. (Photo by Dave Reginek)|
Now, Jimmy Howard (30-10-1) is on a pace to become the first-ever to win 50 games, which would top the current NHL mark set by New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur (48) in 2006-07.
However, wins between now and early April will be far more critical for the Wings in this new world Western Conference than in seasons past.
“I’m just calm and patient out there and when you have a good team in front of you that makes my job a lot easier,” said Howard, who boasts a 1.96 goals-against average with five shutouts this season. “We’re paying attention to details in our own zone. Guys are sacrificing their bodies, blocking shots. … As a goalie, when you see that it fires you up that much more.”
Regardless of the outcome tonight in Montreal, the Wings will enter All-Star weekend with the league’s best record, which currently stands at 33-15-1 for 67 points. But the Wings are also in the league’s toughest division with St. Louis, Chicago and Nashville all within three-points of catching Detroit in the Central standings.
With the Western race likely to go to the wire, the Wings need Howard to continue to shine, especially against his divisional goaltending contemporaries, like, Nashville’s Pekka Rinne and the two-headed monsters in St. Louis (Brian Elliott/Jaroslav Halak) and Chicago (Corey Crawford/Ray Emery).
Sixty percent of the season is in the rearview mirror, but with 33 games remaining on the schedule, the Wings still have 10 divisional contests left to play, including three each against Nashville, Chicago and Columbus.
The Wings are 9-5-0 against their Central rivals with eight games decided by one goal, so it’s conceivable that goaltending will be a crucial element down the stretch.
But Howard’s teammates have plenty of confidence in the third-year starter, who along with center Pavel Datsyuk, will represent the Wings at the All-Star game this weekend in Ottawa.
“He’s so comfortable in net and calm. It helps us to play better,” center Henrik Zetterberg said. “We know he will be there for us. He will win games for us even if we're not playing at our top level we know we have a chance at winning.”
Howard has kept the Wings in games all season, but lately, with three of the last five home games going to overtime or shoot-outs, he’s been a big influence. And during the club’s 17-game home winning streak, he’s been miraculous while posting a 1.41 GAA with a .945 save percentage and four shutouts.
“Over a period of time it is because he's more consistent,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “But he played good right out the get-go, too. He's always had the ability; the ability to do it every night is a different thing. Now he's very confident, soft, when the puck hits him it sticks to him. He makes saves you don't even think are saves anymore. You don't think about it as much. He's become a good goaltender in the league. Now he's got to do it for 15 years, it's the measure.”
Howard knows that he must also do it on the road, where he is 10-8-2 with a 2.42 GAA this season.
“We have to find a way to play on the road like we do at home,” said Howard, who is 20-2-1 with a 1.59 GAA at home. “At The Joe, nothing seems to rattle us. We keep our composure. Even when we get a little bit lost out there we come right back to the game plan and find ways to win.”
If Howard stays consistent at home, and ups his game on the road, he’ll definitely be a Vezina Trophy finalist while joining Terry Sawchuk, Roger Crozier and Dominik Hasek as the only Wings’ goalies to post 40-plus win seasons.
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POSTED ON Monday, 01.23.2012 / 1:58 PM
|Henrik Zetterberg is led off the ice by linesman Brian Mach (78) after the Wings' center received a game-misconduct for an accidental play resulted in an injury to a Columbus player. (Photo by Dave Reginek)|
“Never been called, that was my first,” said Zetterberg, of the phone call from Brendan Shanahan, the league’s headmaster of discipline. “I’m glad that it was Shanny.”
The call from his former Wings' teammate was more of a fact-finding mission to get Zetterberg’s side of Saturday’s story when he earned the first game-misconduct of his career, stemming from a incident when Columbus defenseman Nikita Nikitin fall awkwardly into the end board in the third period.
According to the Blue Jackets’ Twitter account, Nikitin is expected to miss at least two games with a knee injury.
As both players raced for the puck in the corner, Zetterberg had his left hand on Nikitin's back, but replay clearly shows that the fall was accidental.
“I didn’t think that I touched him that hard and I guess he went down mainly on his own,” Zetterberg said. “It looked bad, but I’m glad that I didn’t end up with any suspension.”
After the initial call, Zetterberg had to wait for the league’s decision and Shanahan’s fallow-up call.
“He asked my side of the story and I guess he called Nikita, too,” Zetterberg said. “He needed to hear my side of the story and then I guess they sit down and discuss it and make a decision.”
POSTED ON Saturday, 01.21.2012 / 7:32 PM
|Brett Lebda (23) played five seasons with the Red Wings, including the 2008 Stanley Cup run. He's now in Columbus trying to re-establish his NHL career with the Blue Jackets. (Photo by Dave Reginek)|
“This is where I learned everything, just playing alongside Nick and Cheli all those years,” said Lebda, now a defenseman with the Columbus Bleu Jackets. “It was just an opportunity that I will cherish forever. … It was an unbelievable time here.”
Saturday morning, Lebda was back at Joe Louis Arena for just the second time since he left the Wings’ organization for a lucrative contract with Toronto following the 2009-10 season.
Now with the Blue Jackets – his fourth NHL franchise in seven years – Lebda was signed from Springfield on Thursday, and still hasn’t made his season debut. He did not play Saturday against his former teammates.
“The goal from the beginning of the year was to get back in the league,” Lebda said. “I went down and played in the American League for awhile, I got a good opportunity there so I’m excited to be back now.
“They seem to have a great group of guys here and I’m looking forward to getting to know them over the next few days. We go on the road here for a bit. I’ll get to know everyone and get my feet wet.”
In 26 games in Springfield, Lebda has made the most of his first minor-league experience in five years, collecting a goal and nine assists for the Falcons.
“It was tough. At the same time that’s what was presented to me at the time,” said Lebda, who is trying to re-establish his NHL career. “It was tough to take, but you’ve got to swallow your pride and work as hard as you can to try and get back here.
“I got a good opportunity (in the minors), played a ton of minutes and I think that’s going to help me coming back here.”
Ironically, Lebda last skated in an NHL game with the Leafs in a 4-2 loss at Detroit last March. In 376 career games, he has 19 goals, 53 assists and a plus-17 rating.
“If you ask anyone in the league if they like to watch another team the answer would be Detroit,” said, Lebda, who still maintains a home in metro Detroit. “They play the game the right way and they play it hard. Even when they lose guys like Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby they find guys like Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader to kind of take over that role.”